Late-Round Evaluations: Gray, Weaver, Happ, and Tommy John Returnees

I’m continuing my attention on fringe starters. They are the starters who once the season starts, managers are going to have to make a quick decision on adding or dropping. These pitchers will be in play all season. I’m using NFBC’s ADP and starting at the bottom and selecting any starter drafted by half the teams.

Here is an evaluation of eight more starters. You can find the other editions here:

  • Part 1: Houck, Akin, Dunn, Schmidt
  • Part 2: Webb, Kremer, Stripling, Richards
  • Part 3: Quintana, Minor, Hill, Peralta, Morejon
  • Part 4: Margevicius, Chatwood, Plutko, Marquez, Lucchesi, Balazovic, Abbot
  • Part 5: Lodolo, Castellani, Bailey, Chirinos, Rodon, Cody, Cobb, Hamels
  • Part 6: Perez, Matz, Fiers, Porcello, Gray, Lynch
  • Part 7: McClanahan, Jefferies, Sandoval, Lester, Voth, Velasquez
  • Part 8: Barria, Loaisiga, Wood, DeSclafani, Freeland, Martin,
  • Part 9: Wood (again), Dobnak, Suter, Archer, Senzatela, Brault, Whitley, Kelly
  • Part 10: Wilson, Arihara, Wacha, Wright, Duffy, Mills
  • Part 11: Manning, Pivetta, Bubic, Shoemaker, Brubaker, Gomber
  • Part 12: Houser, Patiño, Gilbert, Ponce de Leon, Wainwright, Martinez

#525 Jon Gray

Gray is being analyzed out of order because I missed him somewhere along the way. Like many of the Colorado pitchers, the league format dictates his fantasy value. He should be unstartable at home but fine on the road. This usage pattern lends to him being useful in best ball and draft-and-hold formats where his good starts can be maximized.

On top of mixing and matching his starts, Gray’s talent is suspect. Last season he lost over 2 mph on his fastball and saw his strikeout rate drop from 9.0 K/9 to 5.1 K/9. Even though Gray said nothing was wrong with him, he eventually placed on the IL with shoulder inflammation.

He’s being drafted in the 35th round of 15-team leagues that seems reasonable considering the up and downside. In redraft leagues, I expect him to go undrafted until his talent level clears up.

#433 Luke Weaver

After a mini breakout in 2019 (1.07 WHIP, 2.94 ERA), Weaver got hit around in 2020 (.349 BABIP and 1.7 HR/9) leading to a 6.58 ERA. It’s no surprise the long ball hurt him with his groundball rate dropping from 41% to 32%. And down a wormhole I go to see what happened.

First, his fastball, which he throws over 50% of the time, saw its groundball rate drop from 38% to 30% thereby explaining the overall drop. His velocity stayed exactly the same (94.1 mph) while gaining over 150 rpm (2308 to 2467). With more spin at the same speed, Weaver should have missed some more bats, but he didn’t.

Instead of moving the ball around as he did in 2019, he decided to throw his fastball right down the middle of the plate. And the pitches got crushed.



Last year, he was more of a thrower instead of a pitcher and he struggled. His subpar results aren’t just going to improve with regression, he’s going to need to make some changes to get back to his 2019 form.

#423 J.A. Happ

With the recent juiced ball, flyball pitchers like J.A. Happ are going to struggle. Here is are Happ’s home run to flyball rates during this juiced ball era.

Season: HR/FB
2015: 0.8
2016: 1.0
2017: 1.1
2018: 1.4
2019: 1.9
2020: 1.5

Not good.

It does help that he signed with the Twins so that he’s in a weaker division with some larger parks. His projected 8.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 are acceptable and he should be a fine streaming option in about two-thirds of his starts.

#419 Luis Severino, #330 Noah Syndergaard, #243 Chris Sale

The production from these three could be all over the place. One could return and be lights out. Or just OK. Or flame out and need another surgery. There is just no way to know. There is no denying their past talent but it may be tough to roster them three zero-production months.

I’ll start with their NFBC ADPs along with the starter being drafted before or after them.

Tommy John Returnees
Name Started Before ADP Starter After
Chris Sale Nate Pearson 267 Michael Kopech
Noah Syndergaard MacKenzie Gore 356 J.A. Happ
Luis Severino Dylan Cease 393 Luke Weaver

In all fairness, the cost isn’t that high with the other pitchers being drafted having major warts. Acquisition cost isn’t the issue with them, but the storage.

I’ve come up with the following plan:

  • I’m going to try to absorb all the news I can from Spring Training on how far along each one is in their rehab. If I’m going to roster one, I want him to be productive.
  • In leagues with ample IL slots, I’ll target them (possibly all three), and just wait. They’ll be nice mid-season additions.
  • In leagues with limited bench spots, I’ll add one in the reserve rounds knowing I might have to immediately jettison him.
  • In draft-and-holds and best balls, I like the idea of adding them at their ADP. Everyone being drafted around them is a dart, so why not them.

#410 Michael Lorenzen

While Lorenzen has pitched out of the bullpen the last few seasons, he wants to join the rotation this year.

First, he has the arsenal to be a starter. A 97-mph fastball that will likely lose a tick or two since he’s starting, but at 95-mph it’ll still be acceptable. An above-average slider (24% SwStr%) and change (21% SwStr%). He can also throw a cutter and sinker if needed.

The main question he’ll need to answer is how far can he go into each game? In two starts last season, he threw 5.0 (76 pitches) and 4.2 (93 pitches) innings, so he’s shown some endurance.

I think he’s a perfect dart throw in a league with a waiver wire. Closely monitor how the experiment plays out and be ready to go all-in or bail immediately depending on how he pitches.

#407 Miles Mikolas

Mikolas missed all of the 2020 season because of forearm surgery so his talent will mainly be unknown. There are a couple of knowns though. He was productive from 2018 to 2019 averaging over 190 IP per season with a 3.76 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Also, he states he is now healthy.

If he regains his previous production, his stats will be comparable to Zack Wheeler and Sandy Alcantara. Both are being drafted about 300 picks earlier.

Or there’s a chance he’s never the same and can’t be started in any format. The boom or bust outcomes make him a perfect late add in a waiver-wire league. And his old boring profile will keep his price suppressed. Draft away.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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3 years ago

Appreciate you sharing the plan for the TJS guys. It’s very helpful to see advice tailored to the format.